The ideal civilization in the Medieval European's eyes.

Aug 2015
1
World
#1
Hey guys!

English is not my first language, so if there's something that's unclear, feel free to ask. I'm currently looking for some reading material on what people in Medieval Europe, up to around 1250, considered the ideal civilization to be. Finding litterature on civilizations in medieval history seems manageable, but information on what was considered a good civilization, not so much.

Does anyone have any suggestions on reading material on this topic? Or maybe some suggestions on how to proceed to find it?

Either way, cheers!
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
4,968
Canary Islands-Spain
#2
"Pop" culture of the age probably would go for Camelot and the Arthurian kingdom, the fever of the age.

A more traditionalist approach would go for Saint Augustine (5th century AD) description of New Jerusalem in his "City of God", a mix of Plato's Republic and the New Jerusalem of John's Book of Revelation... or directly for the later.
 

funakison

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,381
Between a rock and a hard place
#3
"Pop" culture of the age probably would go for Camelot and the Arthurian kingdom, the fever of the age.

A more traditionalist approach would go for Saint Augustine (5th century AD) description of New Jerusalem in his "City of God", a mix of Plato's Republic and the New Jerusalem of John's Book of Revelation... or directly for the later.
Camelot is a good starting point. A glorious castle ruled with a king beloved of his people, enforcing just laws for all, living in a peaceful united land, in a time of plenty.

In the thirteenth century the arthurian ideal was pretty much a vision of the perfect state.
 
Sep 2015
1,648
England
#4
Presumably the above posts are reckoning towards defense of the realm so to speak, as the key central issue of these times. The era before 1250 might also include christianity as a key feature of an ideal civilisation. These were halcyon days for christianity and, by contrast to later years, the monasteries - which provided much in the way of welfare etc.
 

Valens

Ad Honorem
Feb 2014
8,260
Colonia Valensiana
#5
Probably as Orlando Bloom stated in that film Kingdom of Heaven, A Kingdom of Conscience. Heavenly Jerusalem.

On a more serious note, I think Frank81 is very close, but it depends on the part of Europe you have on mind. Camelot might apply to British Isles, but the Byzantines had a very different notion. For them, the ideal state was that of a perfect harmony between secular and spiritual power, where the Emperor was holding a secular sword and the Patriarch a spiritual one. The Byzantine Empire was thus, an ideal of a Christian state. This notion left a huge influence on Europe, Eastern one in particular.

The Papacy also had its notions of an ideal order. The Pope was head of all Christendom, its ultimate spiritual guide who was above all other European kings. Spiritual power of the Papacy was to rise above all other secular power.
 
Sep 2015
1,648
England
#6
Probably as Orlando Bloom stated in that film Kingdom of Heaven, A Kingdom of Conscience. Heavenly Jerusalem.

On a more serious note, I think Frank81 is very close, but it depends on the part of Europe you have on mind.
Camelot + Augustine's City of God are or were myths. Utopian legends: the return of the messiah no less than! But are these ready points of reference for the contemporary? I am skeptical. If we adjust things a little bit for them: an ideal state might have meant for many a benign and generous ruler providing security (strength) and abundance. This might only be achieved through the union of a strong and wise king together with a benevolent (pastoral) church.
 
Sep 2015
1,648
England
#7
...the Byzantines had a very different notion. For them, the ideal state was that of a perfect harmony between secular and spiritual power, where the Emperor was holding a secular sword and the Patriarch a spiritual one. The Byzantine Empire was thus, an ideal of a Christian state.
I am skeptical the Byzantine Empire was an example of an ideal civilisation. They lost much of their original empire 100-200 years after Justinian (never recovered). Byzantine court ceremony and politics were labyrinthine and notorious. John Romer's epic TV-documentary covers a number of points of religious antagonism and division - people died to keep their images of J Christ when others had decided to ban the same. The battle of Manzikurt C12th was lost and epoch making...(yep, skeptical).
 
Jul 2015
892
Netherlands
#9
Hey guys!

English is not my first language, so if there's something that's unclear, feel free to ask. I'm currently looking for some reading material on what people in Medieval Europe, up to around 1250, considered the ideal civilization to be. Finding litterature on civilizations in medieval history seems manageable, but information on what was considered a good civilization, not so much.

Does anyone have any suggestions on reading material on this topic? Or maybe some suggestions on how to proceed to find it?

Either way, cheers!
People didn't experience nationality, society or culture back then the way we do today. Moral opinions of different neighbouring cultures existed, but were hardly ever recorded or compared by contemporary chroniclers or modern historians other than in the face of war. Your best option is to study each different culture and then the wars between them. That sounds like a lifetime work though.
 

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